i am not a natural cook. my mother can look in the fridge, pull out a few things and create something yummy with what’s there, but i have to follow a recipe. i can only go a little rogue after i’ve made something about a bazillion times… which is what happened with the barefoot contessa’s perfect roast chicken. i started making this chicken around fifteen years ago when we were living in san francisco. it felt pretty grown up to me to pull a chicken out of the oven, rather than out of a whole foods plastic container when throwing a dinner party. and it makes your house smell cozy and amazing as well. i never did manage to learn the gravy part of the recipe - the only one in my family who can make a proper gravy is my GG - the rest of us have to cheat with packets or gravy kits when she’s not around. in reviewing barefoot’s recipe, i realize that i’ve changed it quite a bit… i switched out the thyme for rosemary and added carrots and green beans and potatoes to the onions so you end up with a whole pan of roasted vegetables and a truly one pan meal. but whether you follow barefoot exactly or try it my way, this chicken is surefire and what i always make when i have someone new coming to dinner and don’t want to mess up.
when we were living in amsterdam, there was an amazing butcher around the corner. every friday, i went to pick up a chicken. i think i was creating a friday night family tradition because we were living so far from our own families. also, i liked not having to worry about what to make for dinner at the end of the week. (coming up with a dinner plan frequently stresses me out… i often think how wonderful it would be to have a button to push, like on the jetsons, where a pill comes out that tastes like steak or pizza and completely fills you up.) theo loved marketing with me in amsterdam, because the butcher would give him a couple of slices of salami, the baker lady would slip him a cookie when we were picking up bread and the ladies at the chocolate shop would always offer him (and me!) some kind of sweetie when we popped in to get something for dessert. and then the next day (if i didn’t bungle the carving and slice it in half) we would pull the dried out wishbone.
sometimes theo got worn out by our errands in the box bike…
i don’t make my chicken every week anymore, but she makes a frequent appearance at my table. i like to imagine my kids pining away for me and my chicken when they go to college… homesick and desperate to visit, telling their new friends about how much they miss me and my unparalleled chicken. unfortunately, i recently made the tragic mistake of taking them to a restaurant called upstairs that also has a pretty terrific roast chicken and now they pine away for that one.
SUREFIRE ROAST CHICKEN
1 roasting chicken
3 lemons cut into wedges
3 stalks of rosemary
1 onion, halved and sliced
1 small bag of baby carrots
1 big handful of green beans
1 big handful of baby potatoes, quartered
salt and pepper to taste
6 T of butter
preheat oven to 425 degrees. layer veggies into 9 x 13 baking pan: first green beans, carrots, potatoes and then onions. zig-zag olive oil over the veggies and generously sprinkle with salt and pepper. salt and pepper the chicken thoroughly inside and out. stuff chicken with rosemary and lemons. place chicken on top of vegetables in baking pan and place several pats of butter on top. i used to tie up her legs with twine into a perfect duchess slant, but i don’t think she tastes any different when her legs are left open so now i forgo this extra step, even though she doesn’t look as elegant. bake chicken for 1 1/2 hours. remove chicken and place on cutting board under a sheet of foil to rest and put veggies back in the oven for twenty more minutes. some of the veggies will be a bit crispy… i love them that way, but my kids don’t like the “burnt” ones. ENJOY!